Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Skin Cancer Danger: Not Just in Summer

Snow on the ground doesn't mean you don't have to worry about sun exposure. Sunburns -- and skin cancer -- can happen even in winter months.

The Skinny of Vulnerability

Australia's experience with skin cancer does yield numerous lessons about risk factors for the ailment. In fact, some of these could apply to people in the U.S. and Europe, perhaps making more plausible a prediction of higher skin cancer rates in the future.

Skin cancer develops with cumulative overexposure to invisible UV radiation from the sun. When UV light penetrates the skin, it can damage skin cells and cause them to mutate over time. If these mutated cells aren't destroyed by the immune system, they could develop into skin cancer.

Here are some of the reasons why Australians are so vulnerable to the disease and how the same hazards could affect Americans and Europeans:

'Who's the fairest of them all?' Most Australians migrated from Northern European territories. "We're basically a pale-skin population living in a dark-skinned people's land," Slevin explains. "We've been here for only a little over 200 years and our skin hasn't adapted to the ultraviolet radiation that we're exposed to."

Slevin says the growth of international travel by Americans and Europeans to warm, sunny lands during the fall and winter months has also increased their amount of UV exposure.

Skin is in. In Australia, the U.S., and Europe, exposure to the sun has apparently increased with a strong cultural desire for light-skinned people to get a tan and with a change in dress since the early 20th century.

"People used to shun the sun with their hats and parasols," says Martin Weinstock, MD, PhD, chairman of the skin cancer advisory group for the American Cancer Society. Now, showing bare midriffs and more leg, even outside the beach, is acceptable in many parts of the western world.

Fun in the sun. If it's sunny out, people in Australia tend to go to the beach and play, says Kendra Sundquist, PhD, spokeswoman for The Cancer Council New South Wales. The same could certainly be said of people in other parts of the globe. With a host of outdoor activities from surfing to in-line skating to gardening, there are plenty of reasons for people to venture outside on nice days.

Today on WebMD

Malignant melanoma
About 40-50 percent of those who live to be 65 may get it. Here’s how to spot early.
Woman checking out tan lines
There’s a dark side to that strive for beauty. See them here.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
12 Ways to Protect Your Skin from Melanoma
precancerous lesions slideshow
Do You Know Your Melanoma ABCs
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
screening tests for men
Vitamin D
Is That Mole Skin Cancer
Brilliant sun rays